Better care coordination among various healthcare providers can help improve the health of elderly patients with chronic conditions.

That’s according to a new study, published Monday in the Canadian Medical Association Journal. Seniors are the fastest growing demographic across the globe, researchers note, and nearly half of them have more than one chronic condition — diabetes, depression, heart disease, etc. But there’s little understanding of the impacts of coordinated care for patients with such multiple conditions.

After, conducting a systematic review of studies on this topic published between 1990 and 2017, Canadian researchers concluded that care coordination strategies are the best way to improve outcomes for such patients.

“Our study highlights the lack of interventions specifically focused on managing co-existing chronic illnesses in older adults, especially those that appear in clusters, such as diabetes, depression, heart disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease,” noted  Lead author Monika Kastner, M.D., with the North York General Hospital and the University of Toronto. 

Too often, clinical guidelines focus on just a single disease, Kastner added. That limited approach makes it more difficult for providers to treat patients with multiple conditions.

“When we are thinking about diagnosis, we usually consider one disease possibility at a time. When we are planning management — investigation or intervention — we do the same. This is essential for clarity of thought, but it does not account for the fact that one disease may influence the course of another co-existing one,” Ken Flegel, M.D., deputy editor of the CMAJ, wrote in a related editorial.